Email Marketing Isn’t Dead – It Just Needs to Be Done Better


Email Marketing Isn’t Dead – It Just Needs to Be Done Better

August 29, 2019

By Siew Mee Yong, Managing Director and Chief People Officer

Email campaigns are a big deal in 2X, for the simple reason that they’re effective. Unlike paid advertising that disappears when the budget runs out, the email database can last a long time and will continue to be effective if managed properly. The relationship marketers should have with their email databases is based on two important things: understanding and trust.

Here’s what you need to know to do B2B email marketing better.

Two important steps to understanding your database

Rule number one: your database is not a list of people you want to spam. As a marketer, we want to connect people who have a need or a business pain with people who have the solution for that pain.

The first step in better understanding your database is to create a persona document. Include a clear and differentiating description of the roles and responsibilities of your target. This is particularly helpful when dealing with multiple personas that have very similar sounding titles—for example, the VP of Transportation versus the Director of Logistics, or Chief Technology Officer versus Chief Information Officer. Next, list down the challenges or pain points faced by each persona. Finally, pick the keywords that could be used to draw the persona’s attention.

If you have done your homework, your database would consist of contacts that fit the buyer persona(s), are at the right industry and segment, title, seniority, revenue, and size.

As part of good database-build hygiene, it is recommended that the database should be cleansed, validated, and enriched where necessary—the latter is particularly true when preparing for account-based marketing (ABM) campaigns, where the more granular the information, the more targeted and personalized the campaigns can be.

The second step is to create a messaging framework. This is a key step to help organize the main messaging points and generate the pain-based messaging for each persona. What it results in is a clear articulation of pain versus solutions and benefits. Both the persona document and the messaging framework will be referenced again and again by your team members as they optimize email campaigns, so it is important to arm your team with these tools. The effort in understanding the persona will also help in troubleshooting various aspects of the campaign moving forward.

How to build trust

Open rates are driven by interest; click-through rates (CTR) are driven by relevance.

It is not unusual to have good open rates but poor CTRs. Generally, this happens because of poor execution. When we say “poor execution,” we don’t mean bad copy or cheesy stock images—that’s Email Marketing 101 that everyone should know this by now. Poor execution means when the prospect’s trust is broken.

Here’s the context: email marketing is intrusive, and we know that. The more senior the target audience you are trying to reach, such as Directors, VPs and C-levels, the harder it is to get their attention. So, if your email open rates are good, but your campaign is hampered by poor click-throughs, then often it means the follow-through within the email itself is patchy.

Almost anything can break the trust—for example, the images aren’t loading (or loading a half-second too slow), the words or terms used are odd which demonstrates lack of understanding of the domain, or the offer isn’t clear. Any of these could trigger uncertainty and doubt in the mind of the prospect, and all this is processed by the prospect’s mind within seconds of opening your email. This means all the hard work of building a good database and crafting the messaging, all the careful research of the persona, could go down the drain if the execution isn’t perfect.

That’s why the final step of email campaign optimization before launch is a “smell test.”

The smell test

The smell test is a very simple test where we provide the exact experience of how a prospect would feel receiving the email campaign. An expert tester on staff receives the email, clicks through to the landing page, receives the asset and a thank-you page–exactly as a prospect would experience the interaction. The tester would evaluate the user experience and messaging based on the persona. So, in the smell test, within that small window of a few seconds, we decide if the entire user experience builds trust or degrades trust, and we change anything from the positioning of the CTA buttons, imagery, design, or copy based on the understanding of the pain point and persona.

The difference between a campaign that undergoes a smell test and one that launches without is quite significant. We’ve seen at least a 2.5 percent improvement in our campaigns when a smell test is applied. With a few extra seconds of work, this final-stage optimization improves the odds for a good campaign to be even better.

Email isn’t dead

Much have been said about how email marketing is dead or outdated. At 2X, we don’t believe that, and with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), it just means we are on the right path of connecting people by providing quality content and relevant messaging, delivered through seamless user experience.

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Siew Mee Yong

Siew Mee Yong

Siew Mee Yong is 2X's versatile Managing Director and Chief People Officer whose open-mindedness has shaped a diverse career path. Beginning as a researcher in computer networks, Siew Mee transitioned to designing digital user experiences for BT, having a track record of managing large teams with a below 2% attrition rate. Prior to 2X, she was the VP of Global Marketing at Quintiq—now Dassault Systèmes—where she oversaw 30% year-over-year growth and developed an off-shore marketing services function supporting 16 independent global business units.